net neutrality

What Net Neutrality Could Mean For You

Here's what you need to know if net neutrality goes away

Net neutrality. If you're not sure what it means, you're not alone. And with a new administration that might overturn it, you're about to hear more about it.

Here's a brief explanation.

First, the current law: The Federal Communications Commission enacted net neutrality last year. It bans Internet service providers, or ISPs from having "fast lanes" for websites they like or "slow lanes" for websites they don't like. Think of it like a freeway: all lanes have to go the same speed.

So, that's a good thing, right?

Here are the downsides ISPs are bringing up: Just like a freeway, some of those lanes need to move faster. They want to keep the shoulder of the road open for emergency communication or for maintenance, not for downloading games on your phone. Opening up all those lanes makes it harder to do maintenance when there's a traffic jam.

Nothing has changed as of now, but here's what you need to know if net neutrality goes away: It could change how you're billed.

For instance, a company might be able to charge you for visiting some sites or apps, and not for others, pushing you into the ones they want you to use. Luckily there are tools to test your ISP and see if they're being fair.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has put together a tool to help test your ISP yourself. More information is available at eff.org/testyourisp.

You could also switch providers. ISPs hate this.

So if you notice them slowing down your Netflix, vote with your wallet and switch to another cable company, satellite or DSL. And that's something you should do whether or not the law changes in 2017.

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